08.09.2014 - 08.09.2014
Osaka is known as the city of eating til you drop. Many different dishes that have since spread over all of Japan, have their origin here. Kaitenzushi (conveyer belt sushi), shabu shabu (see Kumamoto entry), Omurice (omelette wrapped rice), kitsune udon (noodles with fried tofu), takoyaki (octopus balls) and okinomiyaki (cabbage cake) just to name a few. The city itself is glitzy but oddly most of it shuts down by 8pm, since even in the summer it gets dark around 7pm.
We also added a person to our traveling party, my wife. She will be joining us for our last two weeks on the trip while we are in the comfort of a developed country.
There was one major food left to try that is difficult to acquire in the US: blowfish. If prepared incorrectly all of the meat can become toxic and paralyze you. If untreated this can lead to death. However, in Japan only licensed chefs can prepare the fish and the chances are quite small that anything will happen. I ordered raw blowfish with a citrus soy sauce. The flavor is light, sweet and a little chewy. It reminds me of halibut. Overall quite good but expensive like the rest of Japan.
Takoyaki is diced octopus cooked into a crepe batter. This is done in special pans that result in a ball. This is covered in a sweet teriyaki like sauce and mayonnaise. They also add dried fish flakes, which can be good but the lady gave us fistfuls of it. After removing the layers of fish flakes the balls themselves are soft and gooey with the octopus giving some texture.
Okonomiyaki is cabbage, egg, flour and whatever else you want. The name literally means "as you prefer". Various types of meat and vegetables, noodles, fried eggs, cheese and pretty much anything else can go in it. The servers prepare it for you and you sit there smelling the dish come together. First one side is grilled, then they add noodles if you ordered them. Then they flipp it over and grill the other side. If you ordered cheese and egg they cook this separately and then place the okonomiyaki on top of it before flipping it again. This causes the cheese to melt into the dish itself while still having that pan fried flavor. Finally, Japanese mayo (creamier than American style) add a sweet sauce is ladled onto it. Once this is done the dish is ready to eat. The flavors and textures meld together well and it is not as heavy as it looks being mostly cabbage. Adding the noodles is good as they crisp up a bit one side. Obviously the pan fried cheese on top is also a great choice and I regret not getting it on mine.
We also stopped by a sushi place to enjoy some fresh fish. There are some cuts and species that are expensive or prohibited in America. Stacey had o-toro, or tuna belly meat. This is soft and melts in your mouth like butter. We also had a slice of a whale's tail. This is the second time I have eaten whale and it still reminds me of the darker cuts of tuna. The establishment was similar to the ones back home but had electronic menus to order whatever you like. It would then alert you when the plates got close. The bad part is you would see all of this delicious food go by but they are reserved for other people.
Since our anniversary was recent (and I missed it due to the trip), Stacey and I splurged on a all you can eat BBQ restaurant. For $25 you have two hours to eat all you want of 18 different cuts of meat. Stacey was done after 45 minutes but I went the length. The skirt steak was the best, soft and meaty, and the beef heart was a surprise winner. Thinly sliced it was similar to liver but without the heavy iron flavor. Ben went to a similar restaurant that served all you can eat shabu shabu and Häagen Daz ice cream.